As the season turns over into fall, Chef Mark Adair and the World of Beer staff are enjoying an elementary truth. With colder weather in sight, and events like Oktoberfest still lucid in patron’s minds, beers—and specifically pumpkin varieties—are even more coveted than usual.
There may be no better time than autumn, Adair says, for seasonal selections, making the decision to unveil the brand’s first fall menu since they began offering food in 2013, an easy one. In fact, it’s the first time World of Beer, which has more than 70 locations and showcases 50 rotating taps and an extensive craft beer selection, has tried anything like this.
“Everyone seems to be getting in the beer spirit this time of year. So it was a great opportunity for us to start off this way; to start off on a good foot,” Adair says of the menu, which debuted October 5.
Naturally, pumpkin was a perfect place to begin. Adair warns, though, that their creative concoction, developed in tandem with Jason Rogers, the chef at Oskar Blues Brewery, might catch some people off guard. Even Adair wasn’t sure how to feel when Rogers, who he says likes to think “way outside of the sand box” suggested the Habanero Pumpkin Spiced Wings. “I was thinking, ‘I like habaneros. I like pumpkin spice. But I’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t see those two things going together.’ He said, 'Trust me, we’ll make this work.’ And we did,” Adair says.
The wings are tossed in a sweet and spicy glaze made with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, Jamaican allspice, habanero chillies, and completed with a nutty brown ale reduction.
“It’s hot, it’s sweet. It invokes flavors of fall and Thanksgiving, and I think we created a really nice product,” Adair says. “… When we sampled it, people are taken aback at first when they hear the description, but when they taste it they go, ‘Wow, that’s a really good wing, and something we didn’t except to like.’”
Next up is the Dogfish Head Meatloaf Sliders, collaborated in the kitchen with Kevin Downing, the chef at Dogfish Head Brewery. Adair says they wanted to try creating a meatloaf, something World of Beer has never offered. The result was a pork and beef meatloaf topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms, and covered in a gravy made with the brewery’s Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. “It’s heart warming,” he says. “It’s comfort food. But it’s got a little bit of a twist to it. You get hints of the beer.”
That final comment is the foundation of the entire project. Each menu item had to involve, or mesh seamlessly with, a certain kind of beer. To anticipate those kinds of pairing questions, Adair says the products were introduced to the individual taverns in advance so servers and chefs could become familiar with the flavor profiles. This way, when a guest asked for a recommendation, staff could quickly and easily point patrons in the right direction. For the wings, brown ale is suggested. The menu advises picking a porter with the meatloaf.
The other three seasonal menu items are the Southwest Skillet Cornbread, sweet-corn-and-roasted-pepper-infused cornbread cooked to order in a cast iron skillet, and topped with a fresh salad of arugula, roasted corn, peppers, and Queso fresco, served with chili-lime butter; Colorado Chili, steak, chorizo, and red bean chili spiced with roasted red chilies, served with sour cream, onions, and cilantro; and Pimento cheese board, house-made Pimento cheese spread topped with bacon jam, served with celery and charred garlic toast. The beer suggestions are pale ale, a stout, and Märzen, respectively.
Although Adair says he’s interested to see how the inaugural seasonal menu fares, he admits he’s already pondering similar ideas for the spring and summer.
“We don’t want to get the horses too far ahead, but we’re already thinking about it,” Adair says. “We want to create food that really supports the craft beer program that we have. To do that we have to be innovative, we have to be agile, and we have to follow the seasons.”